A wild, unforgettable 2012 fantasy season went in the books one month ago. The annual coaching carousel ensued, and incoming rookie analysis will follow. While we can't yet include rookies in these post-season fantasy rankings, we do know the identities of the NFL's nine new head coaches. Arguably more pertinent for fantasy, a whopping sixteen offensive coordinator jobs have experienced turnover since November. We have preliminary information on the new faces and can begin contemplating their 2013 impacts.
A few points to consider before reading these rankings: Between now and August, many players will move up or down based on unforeseeable factors. Injuries, beat writer reports, arrests, and offseason transactions. I do not believe in drafting quarterbacks within the first two rounds. We'll soon unveil a series of Rotoworld articles on quarterback strategy, but read on here for my take. These rankings are influenced by Value-Based Drafting principles. Quarterbacks are deeper than ever. Running backs have deepened some since last August, but remain the shallowest position. Wide receivers are deep. Tight ends again look very top heavy. It's basic Supply and Demand.
1. Adrian Peterson -- ACL patients are, theoretically, supposed to rediscover peak performance the season after they return from reconstructive surgery. If that holds true with Peterson, Eric Dickerson ought to be shaking in his boots. In his post-season Vikings tape review, beat writer Tom Pelissero estimated that Peterson "didn't seem to be cutting full tilt until around Week 7," and his "straight-line speed appeared better than before the injury." A top-three fantasy back in five of his six NFL seasons, Peterson will be a cinch for drafters with the first overall selection.
2. Arian Foster -- Including the playoffs, Foster carried the football a whopping 405 times this past season. Perhaps the Curse of 370 is a myth, but there are already signs of weardown as Foster topped 4.50 yards per carry in just three of his final ten games. Foster's versatility and a Texans offense that is committed to the running game keep him squarely in the top-five mix, but you can make a compelling case for Marshawn Lynch, Ray Rice, and a few other backs at No. 2 as well.
3. Marshawn Lynch -- Whereas Peterson and Foster have combined to exceed 300 rushing attempts five times between them, Lynch has done it just once himself. 2013 will be Lynch's seventh NFL season, but long stretches of underutilization in Buffalo have kept his legs fresh. The Seattle offense projects to be more dynamic with Russell Wilson's training wheels removed, so expect more end-zone trips for Lynch. He's already a back-to-back top-five fantasy back scorer.
4. C.J. Spiller -- We'll get a better feel for Doug Marrone's backfield plans in camp, but early signs point to Spiller finally getting an opportunity to be the top dog. Fred Jackson turns 32 in February and has openly acknowledged he deserves to take a backseat. Running volume is a lock to soar regardless in Buffalo; Syracuse's offenses racked up more rushing than pass attempts in each of Marrone's four seasons. Despite handling the 22nd most carries in the league in 2012, Spiller finished as the No. 7 fantasy back. His upside would be scary on 250-plus runs and 50 receptions.
5. Ray Rice -- A picture of durability and consistency, Rice hasn't missed a game since his rookie year in 2008, and he's been a top-six fantasy back in three of the past four seasons. He ranked No. 6 overall in 2012. Rising second-year complementary back Bernard Pierce has emerged as a legitimate threat for 8-12 weekly touches, but Rice is entrenched as a "safe" top-five fantasy pick.
6. Jamaal Charles -- Like Peterson, 2013 will be Charles' first season a full year removed from his ACL tear. He's also a virtual lock for a career high in receptions under pass-happy coach Andy Reid. Perhaps it'll come at the cost of a handful of carries, but Reid has long been a proponent of workhorse feature backs, from Duce Staley to Brian Westbrook to LeSean McCoy. And the fact that Kansas City will inevitably be a better team will greatly improve Charles' weekly consistency.
7. Trent Richardson -- Richardson played his entire rookie season at less than 100 percent, undergoing two offseason knee scopes and suffering a painful rib-cartilage injury in Week 6. Although it limited his per-play effectiveness -- he averaged just 3.56 YPC -- Richardson still finished as a top-nine fantasy back. New offensive bosses Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner are believers in a power run game, playing to Richardson's strengths. He has lots of upside for 2013.
8. LeSean McCoy -- New Eagles coach Chip Kelly is famous for innovation, but the run game was always the foundation of his Oregon offenses. While volume was at times a concern for McCoy under ex-coach Andy Reid, it shouldn't be any longer. Kelly figures to incorporate Bryce Brown more as a change-of-pace back, but look for McCoy to be the centerpiece of Philly's 2013 attack.
9. Doug Martin -- Martin finished 2012 as the No. 2 overall fantasy running back despite losing both of his starting guards over the course of the year. RG Davin Joseph (knee) and LG Carl Nicks (toe) will both be back next season. Although slightly more difficult to trust after NFL defenses figured out Josh Freeman down the season's stretch -- keying up to stop Tampa's running game proved Freeman's kryptonite -- Martin remains a shoo-in top-ten 2013 fantasy pick.
10. Calvin Johnson -- Receiver will remain incredibly deep in 2013, but Megatron is the position's single-biggest difference maker and every bit worth a first-round pick. He's working on back-to-back No. 1 wideout finishes, broke Jerry Rice's single-season receiving yards record, has more talent than any receiver in football, and plays in the NFL's pass-happiest offense. Yes, please.
11. Rob Gronkowski -- The running backs become a bit dicier after the top nine, leaving the Nos. 10 and 11 spots to a wide receiver and tight end. Gronkowski broke fantasy hearts when he fractured his forearm in mid-November, but he'll be fully recovered well before training camp. With double-digit touchdowns in each of his first three seasons, Gronkowski -- still only 23 years old -- is an unstoppable, high-scoring beast. He's a weekly tilter of head-to-head fantasy matchups.
12. Alfred Morris -- Morris finished fifth among fantasy running backs during a historic rookie year, but there are some concerns for 2013. Robert Griffin III's Week 1 status is unclear due to multiple torn knee ligaments, and "ALF" has shown little prowess as a pass receiver. Will the Redskins not be as good and play from behind more? Will RG3's absence -- if he has any -- adversely impact the effectiveness of Washington's run game? Morris would still be a rock-solid pick on the turn.
13. Stevan Ridley -- Coming off a breakout season where he established himself as a centerpiece of New England's new-look balanced offense, Ridley will be as safe a fantasy pick as it gets at the top of the second round. While it'd be nice to see Ridley improve in the passing game, he's a lock to rack up goal-line scores and be leaned on inside the tackles behind one of the NFL's top lines.
14. Matt Forte -- Although he's missed only five games the past two seasons, hard-luck injuries have affected Forte's production, in addition to Michael Bush's goal-line vulturing. Perhaps Bush will continue to handle short-yardage carries in Marc Trestman's offense, but the new coach is a passing-game aficionado and that plays to the strengths of Forte. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Forte set a career high in receptions in 2013. He could offer first-round value in PPR leagues.
15. Jimmy Graham -- There are 8-10 potential fantasy difference makers at quarterback. At running back, around 18. At wideout, more than 20. At tight end, there are only 3-5. Gronk and a healthy Graham tilt head-to-head fantasy matchups in their owner's favor as No. 1 options in highly efficient, highly voluminous passing games. A great bet to bounce back after last year’s wrist and ankle injuries, Graham is well worth a second-round pick.
16. Dez Bryant -- The light flipped on for Dez, and the sky is the limit if he can put together a full season of dominant play. He's still only 24. Finally and permanently pulled off punt returns, Bryant tore the cover off the league down the stretch with 50 catches, 879 yards, and ten touchdowns over Dallas' final eight games. The numbers extrapolate to 100/1,758/20 across a 16-game slate.
17. Brandon Marshall -- New coach Marc Trestman will emphasize increased diversity in a Bears offense that must establish alternative go-to options, but Marshall won't fade into the background. Marshall has ranked in the top three in the NFL in targets in each of his three full seasons playing with Jay Cutler (2007, '08, '12), and he made major strides this past season as a red-zone weapon after struggling there early in his career. His latest hip surgery is a situation to watch.
18. Julio Jones -- It says something when a 23-year-old receiver finishes top-ten in scoring at his position, and the season is chalked up as a disappointment. Such was the case for Jones, whose 2012 inconsistencies left owners wanting more but whose more frequent blowup games single-handedly decided fantasy weeks. With teammate Roddy White entering his age-32 season, look for Jones to take on more of a featured role in his second year of playcaller Dirk Koetter's offense.
19. Percy Harvin -- Durability and landing spot -- he's been the subject of trade rumors -- are concerns for Harvin's 2013 fantasy outlook, but on-field production isn't. He's a top-five receiver whenever active on game days. Over Harvin's last 16 games, he's popped off 112 receptions, 1,496 yards from scrimmage, and 12 all-purpose touchdowns. In all likelihood, Harvin will be back with the Vikings next season and his ankle-ligament tear will be recovered well before camp.
20. A.J. Green -- After scoring ten touchdowns in Cincinnati's initial ten games, Green's stats suffered as Andy Dalton's play tumbled for a second straight stretch run. Green hit pay dirt just once more over the final seven contests, including the playoffs. Green is a freak physical talent, but quarterback play is a concern. He'll still be a great second-round pick in 2013 fantasy drafts.
21. Demaryius Thomas -- Thomas realized his mammoth potential as a third-year player, ranking eighth in the league in receptions (94), fourth in receiving yards (1,434), and seventh in receiving scores (10). Only Megatron, Marshall, Dez, and Green scored more fantasy points at the position. Thomas is here to stay as an elite fantasy talent, and at age 25 he is only going to get better.
22. Andre Johnson -- A quiet start to 2012 fostered belief that Johnson was washed up at age 31. Not the case. Johnson wound up setting a career high in yards (1,598) and falling four receptions short of another personal best. Simple regression will likely lead to more touchdowns for Johnson than last year's four, but there are very few signs that this six-time Pro Bowler is slowing down.
23. Darren McFadden -- Durability is an ongoing concern for McFadden's annual fantasy outlook. Perhaps he'll get better luck in a contract year. The biggest plus is Oakland's hire of new offensive coordinator Greg Olson, who will do away with Greg Knapp's zone scheme and implement a true power-running offense to suit McFadden's strengths. In past coordinator jobs with St. Louis and Tampa Bay, Olson got career-high rushing seasons out of Steven Jackson and LeGarrette Blount.
24. Frank Gore -- Gore was a popular fantasy-bust pick entering 2012, but went on to finish as a top-12 scorer for the second straight year. He hasn't missed a game since the 2010 season. Gore turns 30 in May, but a more explosive 49ers offense in Colin Kaepernick's first full year as a starter should offset age concerns. And the tape doesn't lie; Gore remains a premier NFL runner.